Officials break ground on U.S. 401 widening project

Posted March 11, 2010 4:45 p.m. EST
Updated March 11, 2010 6:55 p.m. EST

Orange barrels / highway construction generic

— State and county officials broke ground Thursday on a 2.3-mile widening project that will help make the commute into Raleigh faster for thousands of motorists who travel on U.S. Highway 401.

The $8.6 million project will turn the two-lane stretch form Ligon Mill to Louisbury roads in northeast Wake County into a four-lane, divided highway with additional traffic signals and noise walls.

The project is being funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and is expected to create about 50 jobs. Construction is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2011.

When complete, it is also expected to provide new business opportunities and help alleviate traffic congestion.

Residents in the area have been asking for the expansion for years because of growth.

"This particular stretch of 401 has received a tremendous amount of growth over the last 10 years, and it's expected to double in the next 15 years," state Department of Transportation Chief Operating Officer Jim Trogdon said.

County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tony Gurley said it's long overdue.

"The need to repair and add roads demonstrates firsthand the continued growth and development taking place here in Wake County," Gurley said.

Wake County has been ranked the ninth fastest growing in the United States, Gurley said, drawing in nearly 36,000 people from July 2008 to July 2009 – about 98 new residents per day.

State projections put Wake, with a population of approximately 900,000, on a path to surpass Mecklenburg County as the most populated in the state.

"The projections indicate that this trend will continue and exceed 1 million residents by 2013," Gurley said.

Residents welcome the widening, which is part of a six-phase plan to widen 20 miles of U.S. 401 from Raleigh to Louisburg.

"It should help a lot," said Carolyn Muskin, who lives in a nearby subdivision, where more homes are being built. "They've put in a new subdivision. It's always hard to get out there."